The research from Aberfield Communications looked at which FTSE 100 chief executive best used comms to influence how they and their companies were perceived, and how they can influence other businesses, consumers or government policy.
The Footsie Influencer 2012 report examined media coverage, annual reports, speech transcripts, videos and social media during the past 12 months for each of the FTSE 100 CEOs.
Polman came top in Aberfield’s first study of CEO reputation, with the report noting his success in ‘driving Unilever’s sustainability agenda and for increasing the overall profile of corporate sustainability and responsible business practices’.
Polman, who has won a number of awards for his investor relations approach, is also known for championing capitalism as a positive force for social change.
Behind the Unilever boss in the survey were Justin King of Sainsbury’s, Ian Cheshire of retail group Kingfisher and WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell.
Notably, the report also suggested that influential CEOs had an impact on the bottom line.
Between 3 January and 31 October 2012, the FTSE 100 Index grew by just 1.46 per cent. For the ten companies with the most influential communicators as CEOs, according to Aberfield, the average share price growth was 9.76 per cent.
Tim Downs, director of Aberfield, commented: ‘There appears to be a definite correlation between influence and financial success.
‘Being an exceptional and influential communicator isn’t top of the job description of a Footsie company boss, but our report suggests it probably should be.’
Unsurprisingly, most of the top ten are bosses of internationally renowned consumer brands (including Burberry, International Airlines Group, BSkyB and Marks & Spencer).
However, Henry Engelhardt of insurer Admiral Group flies the flag for the financial services industry, praised for his innovative employee engagement efforts.